The Essence, Measure, and Coup de Grace of Temptation, Part 1

What kind of man would slap Jesus in the face?

He was an apparently sophisticated officer in the court of Annas, the high priest, but angels from the courts of heaven knew he was a thug, an enforcer for senior officials desperate to bring Jesus down.

Jesus knew, too.

Jesus knew this man had just incited the rude and crude to give full rein to heady feelings of power as though He were totally defenseless.

Who can imagine the magnitude of the wave of temptation that must have swept over “The Mighty God” in that fraction of a second? Isaiah 9:6

This was not the first time every fiber of His being had been tempted to put an insulting, humiliating sneer in its place — not in defiance but in justice. At the very least He must have ached countless times to just get out of there and go home to heaven. His life was bombarded by inescapable temptations from all directions.

No one suspected the magnitude or the subtlety of His temptations for no one else had a clue about the omnipotence He had temporarily shelved but was still fully accessible should He choose to pick it up again.

Plenty of His temptations were overheard but none were recognized to be as insidious as they really were.

“Sure Your mother saw an angel! That’s a good one! You know what people say about liars and fallen women.”

“Can’t You see this kid is a bully? Don’t You see how he runs over the other kids? Don’t just stand there! Do something! Some Messiah You’d make!”

“You don’t look like much to me. The Messiah wouldn’t be walking around this God-forsaken town in sweaty homespun every day.”

For thirty years His heart was torn in two by countless injustices, tears, and grief in just His own family and neighborhood. No one coming into His shop or sitting by Him in the synagogue every Sabbath looked to Him as a their Savior or Deliverer or Healer — their Messiah. But oh how He longed to be. Putting His arm around sagging shoulders, giving His lunch to a hungry kid, bringing water to fellow workers in the heat of summer, cradling a child screaming in pain… it all seemed so pale and small. The sum of all the good He tried to do fell far short of all He yearned for!

Then there were Mary’s eyes ever hoping and trusting yet sometimes also questioning: “When?” “How?” “Now?”

Day in and day out, year in and year out Temptation relentlessly dogged His heels. The Tempter made sure of that. But the Tempter found out some of his stock temptations were no temptation at all for Jesus. If it was unfair, impure, unkind, cruel, dishonest, pretentious, cocky, selfish it was repulsive to Jesus. It had absolutely no appeal for Him.

Jesus found evil so obnoxious that His greatest, almost overwhelming, temptation was to decline becoming sin itself. The dread was so horrific He sweat blood when the time came. What made it worse was knowing Father would show Him no mercy. There would be no reprieve. There would not even be one person who would begin to appreciate what He was going through. His very best friends would be offended that He would succumb to being treated like a criminal and in the process put Himself — and them — in mortal danger. He would be very much alone. The enormity of this particular temptation is incomparable.

You don’t have to be sinful to be severely tempted. Temptation is not confined to Earth. Heaven is not exempt. Ask Gabriel what he wanted to do when Jesus was slapped across the face. Spit on. Stripped and abused.

It’s a no-brainer that so long as we have sinful natures, we will be tempted. It is just as true that even when the impurity and pride of the world loses its appeal temptation doesn’t go away — not right away. As long as there is evil to endure the Tempter will be sure of that.

May the wonder of what Jesus endured and overcame by dependence upon the Power above Him stir us to admire and praise Him above all!

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